Drareni received a presidential pardon as part of the regime’s maneuvering ahead of Monday’s hirak anniversary
Rabat – Journalist Khaled Drareni was released from Kolea prison on Friday after receiving a presidential pardon ahead of Algeria’s Hirak anniversary.
The sudden release of Drareni comes as part of rapid political maneuvering by the Algerian regime. Drareni, a journalist who had been jailed for his coverage of the 2019 Algerian Hirak, is one of 56 activists that are set to be released.
Drareni used the occasion of his release to call for the freeing of all prisoners of conscience, saying “we will be free once all prisoners are free.”
Drareni was possibly the most well-known case of Algeria’s repressive measures towards journalists and government critics. For the two years following the protest movement’s emergence, Algeria’s authorities have been jailing people for as little as public comments on social media.
After two years of repression and economic hardship, Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune is trying to present himself as a champion of the Hirak in the week ahead of its February 22 anniversary. In a televised address this week, Tebboune bemoaned the country’s parliament as corrupt and indicated he would purge ministers from his cabinet.
Shifting blame, diverting attention
Tebboune appears to be trying to shift blame for Algeria’s concurrent crises on ministers and the country’s bouteflika-era parliament.
To calm tempers ahead of the Hirak anniversary, the president has come out as a critic of the government and lower house of parliament and vowed to remove any minister who “in our opinion and from the point of view of the citizens, recorded shortcomings in the resolution of the problems.”
The release of nearly 60 journalists and critics of the regime comes as part of President Tebboune’s PR moves despite these critics having been jailed by his government in the first place.
The political games of the Algerian regime are not uncommon. Tebboune also performed similar machinations ahead of the country’s 2020 constitutional referendum, when he suddenly jailed known Bouteflika associates ahead of the poll.
But few Algerians fell for Tebboune’s gesture in November 2020; over three quarters of the population boycotted the referendum.
Whether Tebboune can divert attention away from his role in Algeria’s crises remains to be seen. As a backup, the government is deploying security forces across Algiers and tightening surveillance as Monday’s Hirak anniversary approaches.